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LSU's defense holds off Manziel, A&M

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LSU's defense holds off Manziel, A&M

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Say hello to the LSU defense, Johnny Manziel.

Jeremy Hill rushed for a career-high 127 yards and a touchdown, and the sixth-ranked Tigers controlled Texas A&M's dual-threat quarterback to rally from an early deficit and beat the 20th-ranked Aggies 24-19 at Kyle Field on Saturday.

Michael Ford had a touchdown run and Zach Mettenberger threw a TD pass to Kadron Boone for the Tigers (7-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference), who scored 21 points off Texas A&M turnovers.

A&M (5-2, 2-2) outplayed the Tigers for much of the first half and led 12-0, LSU's largest deficit since the national championship game against Alabama in January. LSU converted two A&M miscues into touchdowns just before halftime, and Boone's diving catch in the end zone with 11 seconds left put the Tigers up 14-12 at the break.

Manziel, the SEC's leader in total offense, completed 29 of 56 passes for 276 yards and also threw three interceptions. He was also the league's leading rusher coming into the game and was held to 27 yards on 17 carries.

``Defense just had to get their feet set and understand what was going on,'' LSU coach Les Miles said, ``get the comfort of the scheme and the habit of throw and how to chase that quarterback. He's a gutsy, tough guy.''

The Tigers' offense ranks eighth in the SEC and struggled to produce points in two of three previous conference games. The defense forced three turnovers and notched a safety in a 12-10 win over Auburn last month, and stepped up again with the offense sputtering on Saturday.

``They've made life difficult on everybody they've played,'' Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said.

A&M started strong, taking a 6-0 lead on Christine Michael's short touchdown run. LSU hadn't given up a first-quarter score in four games.

LSU went three-and-out on its initial series, and the defense looked a step slow again when A&M got the ball back. Manziel got plenty of protection from the Aggies' offensive line and threaded a 21-yard pass to Mike Evans for a first down at the LSU 34. Taylor Bertolet kicked a 32-yard field goal to put A&M up 9-0.

LSU's defense generated better pressure on Manziel as the half wore on. The Tigers, meanwhile, sputtered for most of the half against the same Aggies' defense that gave up 615 yards in last week's 59-57 win at Louisiana Tech.

LSU got the kick-start it needed when freshman cornerback Jalen Collins intercepted Manziel at the LSU 39. Ford gained 13 yards on a fourth-and-1, then raced 20 yards down the sideline for the Tigers' first touchdown with 1:49 left before halftime.

``The defense always sets us up,'' Hill said. ``Every game they find a way to keep us in the game.''

Ben Malena fumbled at the A&M 41 with just over a minute left in the half. The Aggies looked as if they might escape, but Boone's spectacular, over-the-shoulder catch took away their momentum.

``There's really no reason to panic when you get down,'' Mettenberger said. ``You just have to keep grinding away, keep focusing and keep believing. We did that and right before the half we got two quick possessions and two quick touchdowns.''

Mettenberger went 5-for-16 and the Tigers mustered only 147 yards in the first half. The Aggies amassed 256 yards in the first half - 45 more yards than LSU allowed in a 23-21 win over South Carolina last week.

LSU started a drive early in the fourth quarter with eight straight running plays, gaining at least five yards on seven of them. Hill ran 18 yards up the middle to the A&M 9 before Jarvis Landry lost yardage on a pass by Mettenberger toward the sideline, and Drew Alleman's 28-yard field goal put LSU up 17-12 with 8:35 remaining.

Trey Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards to the LSU 16. Linebacker Kevin Minter nearly sacked Manziel on second down and Manziel's throw to Uzoma Nwachukwu fell incomplete on third down. Bertolet shanked a 33-yard attempt and LSU regained possession with 7:28 left.

``We needed to get out of there with something,'' Sumlin said.

LSU junior cornerback Tharold Simon put it away when he intercepted Manziel's pass and returned it to the A&M 46.

``Early, we were reacting to balls thrown, and later we were reacting to intent of the quarterback,'' Miles said. ``We were just making better plays and there were some adjustments made by our defensive staff in terms of calls and change of personnel.''

Hill then burst up the middle and sprinted to the end zone, going over 100 yards for the second straight week. He rushed for a career-high 124 yards against South Carolina last week. LSU is 31-2 under Miles when it has a 100-yard rusher.

Malena finished a quick A&M drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:17 left. But Odell Beckham, Jr. cleanly fielded the onside kick, and the Tigers held on.

The announced attendance was 87,429, the fifth largest crowd in Kyle Field history. The Tigers and Aggies were meeting for the 51st time - they played from 1960-75 and from 1986-95 before the series was discontinued. LSU beat Texas A&M 41-24 in the Cotton Bowl after the 2010 season.

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKING

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 25, 17 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Five Redskins who will have to step up in 2018

Originally published 12/26/17

WR Josh Doctson—This list is in no particular order but if it was, Doctson would be right here at the top. The watchword for Doctson is consistency. He makes some incredible catches and then there are throws that he drops or doesn’t quite seem to make enough of an effort to catch. There is promise there. The first-round pick has shown his ability and his teammates say he has a chance to be elite. But the potential must translate into production on the field, week in and week out.  

RB Samaje Perine—There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.

CB Josh Norman—Unless he gets a pick against the Giants, he will go through the year without any interceptions. Sure, they don’t throw his way all that often and INT’s don’t give you the complete picture of his play. But a CB taking up $20 million in cap room needs to get a couple of picks almost by sheer accident. Norman battled some injury problems and if he wants to justify the final two years and $23 million of salary remaining on his contract, his age 30 2018 season needs to be more impactful.

OLB Preston Smith—The third-year player started strong, with at least half a sack in the first five games. And he’s finishing strong, with three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in the last two games. But in between, he had a total of just half a sack in eight games. This follows the pattern he displayed his first two years in the league of being dominant in some games and invisible in others. If he can develop some consistency in his 2018 contract year, he could cash in huge in free agency the following year.

Head coach Jay Gruden—Normally I only include players on lists like this one but if Gruden doesn’t do something to get the Redskins out of their near-.500 rut then nothing else will matter. He needs to change up something, whether it’s pushing the players hard in training camp or perhaps fine tuning his friendly approach to the players. Sure, better luck regarding injuries and a schedule that right now appears to be a bit less challenging will help. But Gruden needs to look at what he can change, too.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 4
—NFL Draft (4/26) 60
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 196